UK cinemas ‘disappointed’ Mulan will get an online release (at a cost of $29.99)
Disney’s decision to give its Mulan remake an online streaming release has been strongly criticised by the body representing British cinemas.
The live-action reboot had been due in cinemas, but the company has now decided it will be released on its streaming site Disney+ in the US.
The UK Cinema Association said it understands the same will happen in the UK, describing it as “hugely disappointing.”
“For many, this will seem a step backwards rather than forward,” said Chief executive Phil Clapp.
Whilst cinemas have been reopening in the UK since July, they are facing a battle to get the seats filled. Most new releases have been delayed or released online.
Mr Clapp said: “With cinemas across the UK now continuing to re-open and welcome back their customers, the decision by Walt Disney Studios yesterday to put Mulan on their Disney+ service and not into cinemas will be seen by many as hugely disappointing and mistimed.”
On Tuesday, Disney confirmed the film would be available in the US for $29.99 from 4 September.
Disney’s chief executive said the cost would vary in other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Western Europe. But Disney has not confirmed its plans for the UK.
Mr Clapp said: “Rather than playing a great new family film in the best place possible to see it, the cinema theatre, audiences are instead being encouraged to stay home and pay a premium price to watch it.”
An estimated 40% of UK cinemas have reopened but many film fans have not returned. Last weekend’s box office takings were just 3% of the total on the same weekend last year.
Mulan will come out in cinemas in countries that do not have its streaming platform – such as China – and where cinemas are back in business, the company’s boss added.
Mulan cost an estimated $200m to make and was scheduled for a full cinema release in March, but its release date was postponed several times.
Mr Chapek called the move to the streaming service “a one-off” and said the pandemic had forced the company to explore other revenue streams.
But some feel the Mulan move could end up being a tipping point in the battle between cinema release and streaming.
The Guardian described it as “seismic”, Empire Magazine said it was “potentially devastating news for theatre chains and us, the moviegoing public,” and The Telegraph accused Disney of “behaving as though it wants our cinemas to die.”
The Hollywood Reporter quoted a letter sent by Disney to UK cinema operators, in which the company reportedly apologised and said the decision was “not taken lightly.”
It was also reported that a separate letter was sent by Mr Clapp to UK Cinema Association members in which he called Disney’s decision “frankly bewildering.”
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